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Popeyes vs. Chick-Fil-A: 3 Lessons For Competitor Campaigns

3 MINUTE READ | November 1, 2019

Popeyes vs. Chick-Fil-A: 3 Lessons For Competitor Campaigns

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Grant Weber

Grant Weber has written this article. More details coming soon.

Sunday —typically a day of rest and peace— is now at the epicenter of a fried chicken feud between Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes. With the words, “I’m Back,” Popeyes puffed its chest and announced it will be restocking its adored chicken sandwich. The very same fried chicken sandwich that sold out nationwide in just two weeks. The Sabbath release is a strategic attempt to take on its new direct competitor, Chick-Fil-A. Chick-Fil-A—famously closed on Sundays— took to the Twittersphere in response. The beef between Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes has become a tasty bit of advertising and brand banter with many lessons to learn from and enjoy.

Like all great underdog stories like David vs. Goliath and Harry vs. Voldemort, unbeatable odds can come down to knowing one’s strengths, but also their enemy’s weaknesses, i.e., speed, ego, and Horcruxes. Popeyes, the challenger (and fried chicken underdog when stuck between two buns), needed an edge. Thus, Popeyes targeted Chick-Fil-A’s six-day workweek. A full 24-hours of uncontested business.

The question then can be asked, why hasn’t anyone else thought of that? Chick-Fil-A has been closed on Sundays since it opened its doors in 1947. The simple answer is that nobody else had a competitive product and reputation in fried chicken to stack up. Popeyes was perfectly positioned to prove that even a god can bleed.

Popeyes Sign Ad

In a clever bit of advertising, Popeyes transformed the interstate exit sign into the cheapest billboard on the road. Instead of a long-drawn-out design process and out-of-home media buy, ten letters stuck to an existing sign was all it took to declare war. If you’re like most, you’ve probably driven by these signs many times without once realizing their natural potential. Well, someone did and they deserve a raise and free lunch.

All things considered, a global fast-food chain the size of Popeyes running out of a menu item should have tragic consequences. It could be argued that running out of chicken sandwich may have been the best thing to happen to the brand in the last 35 years. Instead of going into full PR recovery mode, Popeyes and its agency GSD&M rallied the BYOB (Bring Your Own Bun) campaign that began running in September.

Bring Your Own Bun was a tongue-in-cheek call to sandwich fanatics to bring their own buns to the store. After all, Popeyes will never be out of chicken! Quick thinking and some incredible social media community managers made all the difference for Popeyes, and it shows.

Twitter Follower Growth between Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes, courtesy of CNBC

Even if your brand isn’t directly involved, there are plenty of clever ways to get involved in a trending topic, but be careful not to become collateral damage. *Cough* Wendys.

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